This review may contain minor spoilers.
I rarely buy movies. It isn’t very often that I feel one is worth adding to my collection, I’m a right picky bastard but that’s just the way it is. Mom & Dad is out for online purchase and rental and the purchase price was so close to the rental price that I decided to do what Admiral Adama once said in Battlestar Galactica….I rolled the hard six.
Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)) and Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions (1999), Mothers and Daughters (2016)) play Brent and Kendall Ryan a middle class couple with two children Carly and Joshua, a Chinese housekeeper (Sun Yi), and who generally deal with first world problems.
From the outside, Brent seems like an amiable enough guy, quick to laugh and pal around with the family. Underneath however, he is deeply unsatisfied with his job as a machine-parts salesman. This has dulled his passion for life and his wife Kendall.
Kendall doesn’t have much of a life outside of her family and feels that even it is pulling away from her, mainly in the form of her daughter Carly, played by Anne Winters, who she wishes was still her best friend.
“I don’t understand why they so crazy today” — Sun Yi
What it is exactly that sets the parents off I can’t say. Some sort of harmonic signal or pulse. Whatever it was the result is fast and explosive. Parents immediately began to seek out their offspring for the sole purpose of offering them that sweet eternal night.
“The world you kids are living in. The things you see on the Internet. Mouth to dildo, dildo to ass, ass to ass. Hi Brent, anal beads, things I only saw in magazines!” –Brent Ryan
In Mom & Dad we get the full Cage spectrum…affable and playful one moment and like a switch, able to transform into pure menace and primal insanity in the next. Cage seems to relish the opportunities he has to engage in violence and destruction. In one such moment he hails the oncoming mayhem like a conductor in a sadistic orchestra. It’s an energetic performance, one from which we draw the impression that the Brent character has never felt more alive.
Blair, not one to be outdone by Cage or anyone else, expertly navigates the range of emotions from assertive to manic to grief with the dexterity of a ballerina. The film presents an almost otherwordly scenario that Blair sells effectively. Confusion and despair seep from her pores…until it doesn’t. Until they instead drip malice as she morphs into a homical genius with dead eyes that reflect no soul.
“You bought a pool table? You don’t even like pool.” –Kendall Ryan
The film takes a moment from the action to do a flashback. The purpose is to give us more insight into the nature of the parents Brent and Kendall. It does this pretty effectively so some are likely to forgive the break in the films momentum. It jumps three weeks back where Kendall and Brent get into a heated argument about a pool table he purchased. As a result they end up confessing their deep disappointments regarding their lives. The talk is a frank one, conveying thoughts and fears that most working men and women can avidly relate to. It is a poignant scene that almost feels like it belongs in another movie, but the efficacy of it makes it a welcome enough addition.
“They’re in the basement.” –Brent Ryan
The synchronicity in the malevolence is deliciously creepy as a knowing glance between the parents conveys that both share the same horrific goal. This isn’t a man’s job…or a woman’s job. This is parents work, and they are unified in this objective like they have never been before. To watch this concerted effort is the true highlight of the film as they plot and attempt various ways to snuff out the light of their lives. Kendall’s casual wave to a neighbor with the sun beaming over the horizon as she implements a nefarious task is a reminder of the outlandishness of the proceedings and the world in which they are taking place.
The director of this piece, Brian Taylor, is a big fan of close-up shots, practically bumping into the actors with the camera. It’s a hit or miss approach that works better during the more frenetic moments but has the detriment of sometimes making things unclear. I felt I had seen his style before and realized that I had as he was the director of the Crank movies as well as Gamer (2009), which is still a guilty pleasure of mine. With those films in mind, it doesn’t surprise me that Mom & Dad doesn’t pull any punches in the violence department. It’s vicious and graphic with the added intensity it is often aimed at teenagers and those even younger. There’s one particular scene that is really hard to watch entailing Kendall assisting her sister Jeanne give birth. Let’s just call it a win argument-wise for the pro-life crowd.
Even though Taylor’s oeuvre lies in the action department, it was the quieter moments that I felt were strongest. Ominous shots of parents eyeing their children like hungry wolves. Kendall casually waving to a neighbor as she preps to murder her children. The aforementioned discussion between Cage and Blair’s characters. These calms in the center of the hurricane threaten to make the film more than what it is.
It doesn’t all work in Mom & Dad unfortunately. There’s an explosion sequence that is palpably unrealistic. Acts of macgyverism that didn’t feel logical narratively. These moments undercut the air of credibility hard earned by Cage, Blair and the supporting cast. There are more flashback scenes inserted into the midst of the action and these do disrupt the flow more egregiously than the first, offering insights we could have inferred ourselves or been offered elsewhere. There is an attempt at levity from one of the children that truly feels out of place given the context. But it’s in the last part of the third act where things really begin to dip both in direction and the script. In fact, the doubling down here on an already ludicrous premise hurts the film significantly. This foray into camp silliness hamstrings the film’s status from epic-cult to B-level okay territory.
Which is to say I don’t regret my purchase of this film, but I’m not crazy about the price I paid either.
3 out of 5 Stars
That was end of End of the review portion Exit Now To Avoid My Political Musings/Rants
Somewhat early in the film Dr Oz makes an appearance to provide a possible reason behind the carnal events by describing the phenomenon known as savaging:
“It’s actually somewhat common in the animal kingdom. For instance, in a domestic pig population, as anyone involved in raising livestock will tell you–In fact, around 50 percent of piglet fatalities seen is due to the mother attacking or crushing the newborn pre-weaned babies, and no one can say exactly why they do it.”
Having grown up around a multitude of four-legged beast I can attest to this behaviour but I like to think of the events in this film as human nature correcting itself. The wiping out of an ideologically defective generation to preserve the species. My one critique is that it was not more specific in the types of kids removed from the globe. The snowflakes, the race-obsessed, the gender-obsessed, the ones who are daft enough to believe facts should care about their feelings. There are those of the younger generation who are great people…I’m a proud father of one. But for most of these little wretches who embrace socialism, communism, fascism; who would throw away the freedom and liberties so many millions of men and woman have died to achieve…the wood chipper for them. Figuratively, at least.